Lesotho + 6 more

Southern Africa: Battle against starvation depends on collaboration

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The battle against starvation in Southern Africa does not merely depend on one organisation alone, but on the cohesion and collaboration of many players such as NGOs, UN agencies, donor governments, recipient governments, churches, local communities, civil society, as well as other individuals elsewhere in the world, says Paul Sitnam, World Vision's Senior Relief Coordinator for SAFER.
"So far World Vision has had no reports of children in their Area Development Programs, in all the affected countries, dying of hunger related illnesses," Sitnam explains. "Our early warning systems assisted us in picking up the onslaught of this food emergency."

According to Sitnam, the humanitarian community responded quickly to mobilise internal and external support to take on this crisis and hold it to at least a stalemate. "In brief, I think a notable success was that the worst case scenario's predicted for this crisis, never realised in 2002. This can be ascribed to the hard work of NGOs, but also the whole humanitarian community working together to tackle this serious issue."

Since the advent of the food crisis, World Vision has distributed food to almost 2.7 million beneficiaries in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland and Lesotho.

World Vision's programme has grown considerably, and most of the expansion has been in food commodities. Sitnam describes this as the first basic line of activity in a food crisis emergency, but says it should not be the only one. "We are handling this growth by trying to rationalise it in the worst affected countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi). We are utilising our full capacity to reach the most vulnerable."

Other non-food activities such as agricultural recovery have also grown due to an increased donor interest. "We have high-quality programs in each of the affected countries, and our programs department is working hand in hand with local communities to develop rational strategies."

"It's hard to say what 2003 holds in terms of harvests, but according to the forecasts, El Niño conditions will continue during the rest of the growing season. This is most likely to result in dry spells and below average rainfall in different parts of the sub-region and subsequent reductions in yields."

Sitnam concludes: "This year, we will carry out a relief management capacity assessment in the seven countries affected, to see how well they are geared up and managing the relief operation. In addition, an evaluation of the impact of relief in Zimbabwe and Zambia will possibly be conducted in mid 2003."